In the early hours of the morning on May 14, 2014, members of Cascadia Forest Defenders climbed a billboard on I5, to drop a banner protesting raw log export in Oregon. The billboard, formerly carrying a message promoting the Best Western hotel chain, now reads: “Big Timber Sends Jobs Overseas. Stop Raw Log Export.”
Due to the economic recession in 2008 and the subsequent crash of the housing market, the demand for lumber in the US plummeted. Timber companies saw a rising demand for logs coming from China and started increasing the amount of raw log exports dramatically. From 2009 to 2013, raw log export from Oregon and Washington more than quadrupled, going from 1,000,000 cubic meters in 2009 to 6,000,000 cubic meters in 2013. Exporting raw logs instead of lumber means that those logs never pass through US sawmills. Instead they are sent to China to be milled there.
Log and chip exports, which make up a third of Oregon’s annual timber harvest, are responsible for the loss of thousands of domestic manufacturing jobs each year. Lane County, for example, where Weyerhaeuser is the largest private landowner and the region’s main log exporter, saw a 75 percent increase in the timber harvest from 2009 to 2012 and a concurrent 14 percent decrease in wood products manufacturing jobs. “We are constantly hearing the propaganda from the timber industry that environmentalists and the spotted owl are responsible for the loss of timber jobs in our state. But we want Oregonians to know that the timber industry is making decisions for corporate profit and against their own workers. These big companies are sabotaging their own mills to make a buck,” says Ben Jones.
Cascadia Forest Defenders also opposes Wyden’s current bill regarding the O&C lands, which would double the cut on Western Oregon BLM forests, eliminate the “survey and manage” safety net for threatened species, and eliminate public comment by getting rid of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA process). CFD realizes the issue of this bill is intertwined with the issue of log export. Because of an increase in raw log export from private forestland, counties are suffering economically, and the logging industry is responding by pressuring politicians to ramp up the cut on public land.
White Castle, a timber sale that Cascadia Forest Defenders occupied for 10 months before it went under litigation, is one of the Variable Retention Harvest clearcuts that Wyden advocates for in his O&C bill. “We don’t want to see our last 5% of never-before-logged forest clearcut. And we don’t want to hear the excuse that we need more old growth clearcuts on public land because the mills don’t have enough timber. Look at the facts. The mills don’t have enough timber because it’s all on a boat to China,” says Maria Farinacci of CFD.
This action is in solidarity with the Friends of Newport, who are currently fighting to stop a new log export terminal from being built on their shores. Erin Grady of CFD says, “Log export is bad for environmentalists, it’s bad for workers, it’s bad for logging towns and it’s bad for coastal communities. It’s bad for everyone but the landowners and the CEOs of big timber, and that is something we all need to call into question.” The billboard can be seen driving North on I-5 between the 30th St. and Glenwood Blvd exits.